Instilling healthy sleep habits in your kids

Putting your kids to bed, and getting them to sleep, can sometimes be an arduous task. But there are ways to encourage a peaceful night’s rest.

First and foremost, what’s the right amount?

The National Sleep Foundation  offers the following recommendations:

• Newborns 0 to 3 months — 10.5 to 18 hours per day on an irregular schedule.
• Infants 4 to 11 months — 9 to 12 hours per night plus frequent naps during the day.
• Toddlers and preschoolers 1 to 5 years — 11 to 14 hours per night, including some napping.
• School-aged 6 to 13 years — 9 to 11 hours per night with little to no daytime napping.

While these are general guidelines, it’s important to note some age-related specifics.

Newborns do most of their sleeping during the day and are awake through most of the night. At approximately two to three months, that pattern starts to reverse; however, don’t expect your infant to go without a short nap about every two hours until he or she reaches six to nine months of age.

Around two to four years old, your child may only be napping twice a day, but napping may disappear entirely around age five. This pattern continues throughout late childhood.

Teenagers, however, do not typically get enough sleep, which should be around eight to 10 hours per night. This can be due to texting or talking on cell phones and staying up late. In addition, bedtimes can be irregular.

Getting your kids to sleep.

Infants — Preparation for bedtime may include rocking, feeding, and swaddling. Learn to recognize sleep cues and put them to bed when they begin to get drowsy, not after they’re already asleep. This helps them learn to put themselves to sleep. And it’s okay to let them cry for 30 minutes to an hour; infants need to learn to self-soothe. Check in on them every so often, but resist the temptation to pick up and coddle them to sleep.

Lay them on their backs in a crib with nothing but a swaddling sack or sheet — no toys, extra blankets, or crib cushions. Make sure sheets are tucked below the arms. Do this until they’re able to roll over completely by themselves, from front to back and back to front.

Two to eight years of age — Establish a time and routine for going to bed. This can include bathing, brushing teeth, putting on pajamas, and reading a story. Also, establish a routine wake time. Kids respond well to an expected regimen and will sleep more predictably.

Thunderstorm, bad dreams, or overactive imagination? Try to avoid letting your kids sleep in bed with you at all costs. Once you provide that option, it could become a habit that’s really hard to break. Instead, go to their room for a few moments to reassure that there’s no boogeyman in the closet.

Preteens and teenagers — In addition to maintaining a bed- and wake-time routine, make sure they’re getting plenty of exercise and are eating nutritiously. Try to restrict sugar and caffeine intake and napping from late afternoon on.

The light that emits from electronics, including televisions, computers, and cell phones, signals the brain to stay awake. It’s recommended that all electronic devices be shut off a full 30 minutes before going to bed in order to promote a healthy circadian rhythm. (This applies to everyone, adults included.)

In closing.

If you are still having difficulty getting your kids to sleep and stay asleep, there may be an underlying medical or emotional issue, such as asthma or depression. Please see your physician for diagnosis and to discuss your options. In the meantime, here’s another resource to check out: